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Thursday, 12 February 2009

jam jam everywhere, nor any drop to eat

Having bought some reduced stuff at the supermarket, I had to find room for it in the freezer. Once home - as so often happens - the lustre had faded from my bargains. It dawned on me that never would I want to eat any of it, however cheap, particularly shrouded in ice. To boot, the packaging will crack, thanks to my sturdy forcing, and the label will come awry. A wintry anonymity of deep unattractiveness is doomed to settle on them. The boys will be told to eat up without complaining.

Solid and frozen however, these will be a problem for me to encounter way in the future, as were the three punnets of raspberries, optimistically-purchased last October, which were jettisoned to create the necessary room for this batch of odd decisions.
I decided to make jam of them. I needed jam (Marie Antoinette would understand in a cake / jam way) but it ended up taking 2 days which no-one, even in the wilder throes of mis-placed optimism, is going to say was time well spent.
The pursuit of a cheap thing can be time-heavy and, although I dread to confess it, expensive. The jammy offerings of Tiptree are appearing to be spectacularly good value in comparison. Plus they actually are jam, whereas my efforts cannot be said to be anything other than slops.

“Sauce,” my mother suggested when I told her, “for your porridge.”
“Coulis,” I said sternly; this IS the Cotswolds.
The trouble is I didn’t want coulis, and I certainly didn’t want sauce. What I want is jam. And I don’t eat porridge, so having plugged a gap which wasn’t there, I am still left with a jam-shaped hole.

We entertained chums at the weekend. It worked so well, and that despite a smorgasbord of dietary peccadillos to navigate, that I could crow with gloaty delight. One friend said I should open a restaurant (I do love praise) and that she would play Mrs Overall, shuffling round as cardi-clad waitress. The idea appeals, but not much. Have you seen Masterchef? Do not those sessions in the “pro kitchen” inspire you to promise never, ever to complain, even under your breath, in a restaurant? A circle of hell, but eagerly aspired to by the culinary mad.

I do like cooking, but on a low-key level although I must (must you? yes) shoehorn in an unnecessary boast that my mayonnaise is just delicious. It takes less than five minutes to rustle up and is genuinely, cross my heart etc, worth doing. It is less expensive than “proper” mayonnaise and I couldn’t even walk to the post-office-cum-shop to buy some in the time, let alone factor in the inevitable painful trapping of chat with the Post Office man (teeth, medication, ducks, Spain, hedges in Spain, post office regulations).

Pasta is moot. It's good, better than shop bought, but it is incumbent upon me to confess that I could walk to Tesco and back, even down an icy, winding road in a horrid blizzard, in the hour or more that I spend sending myself crazy sending the dough through the machine.

But as for the jam, I could stroll to Waitrose, friends, which is 5 miles away. I could dawdle in the blissful aisles, hand pick the smartest jars, stay for coffee, read the papers, stay for lunch, stroll back and still be quids in, both time and cash wise.

Saving money is not all it’s cracked up to be, particularly when it means the fridge is full of substandard sauce. But still one persists. And el credit cruncho has resulted in some crazy wheezes peddled by desperate newspapers.
My mother told me of a Handy Tips booklet included with a recent Telegraph where one of the suggestions concerned saving that vital fiver in cocking a snook at room service if you were to reach the hotel after the restaurant was closed.
Yes, latest wisdom is that you can toast your own cheese sandwich.
What is entailed is the cunning inclusion in your packing of some pre-made cheese sandwiches wrapped in silver foil. Once in the privacy of your room, break into your suitcase, extract the sarnies and iron them. Yes, iron them: ta-da!
This they call an “instant tasty hot snack.”
But there are so many issues skirted over. Not least of which the inadvisability of popping a sweaty cheese sandwich in among your clothes in the first place: the pfaff, the potential for error: the suitcase inadvertently being left by a warm radiator, while you get pissed on the mini bar. Then there's the assumption that your room will have an iron, and the folly in expecting that it will be anything approaching “tasty”.
We all know that the bread will remain steadfastly soggy and limp, while the cheese will manage to break free and leak oily globbets on a shirt, plus you’ll have a scorched chest of drawers on your hands to hide from the chambermaid: there’s only so much concealment one can reasonably expect from artfully discarded sachets of Nescafe.
They attempt to pre-empt this last, by suggesting bringing along a bundle of old newspapers – truly – to fashion an impromptu late-night ironing board. By the time one’s packed a tasty snack and a heap of old newspapers you might feel it was easier to stay home and eat it there, rather than Go Tramp in a smart hotel ruminating on your failure to run to the hotel’s offerings.

It doesn’t stop there, and many a use for 'denture cleaning tablets', too, crop up, providing you have such things handy, which so many of us from the Colgate generation just don’t. Otherwise, which is true of many of the tips, you might as well go out and buy the thing that's meant to do the job you are buying the alternative for. Much as I love my superior mayonnaise, it’s to be eaten with salad, not popped on my head as hair conditioner.
And the suggested uses for marshmallows - again, not a permanent feature of my cupboard - would make your eyes water. Let's say home pedicures feature.

Jam-tired this made me, I’m all for eyeing the 100% shop-bought Marmite with interest. Whistling insouciantly, my hand stretched into the fridge, brought forward three sullen jars of nasty sauce and hurled them to the bin. A certain lightness settled on me.


Pipany said...

Well, if you ever work out to make Marmite, Milla...

Love jam making myself, but do agree that when things go awry it is barely worth the effort. Still hoping to have a go at pasta making, but so far all my hopes have been dashed by children, etc. Ah well. Mayo might be fun to try though. Recipes please Milla.

SMS said...

I love the idea of ironing a cheese sandwich....images of the escapades of a certain Mr Bean come to mind!

Fennie said...

Just brilliant, Milla, and so, so right you are. Why do we imagine that shops do two for one offers in the first place. Actually, though I never put jam in the fridge, even when it's open. I don't really like cold jam. And it won't go off in under a year or thereabouts. Leastways if it is good stuff, which is another reason to buy the non-reduced Bonne Maman (just the right consistency for spreading on yoghurt) or Tiptree. In fact I daresay you could venture to prove that by buying the most expensive of everything you actually saved money and lived longer.

ChrisH said...

Actually, I am very tempted by that cheese sandwich idea but then I am a completely lazy slut and I loathe cooking. I love having someone cook for me though - everything you've written about sounds very enticing. In fact my mouth is actually watering now... might have to go and iron myself a cheese toastie.

Elizabethd said...

So sad when a good idea wasnt worth the time spent on it. Made jam this year. Didnt eat jam...we rarely do....so there it sits in the cupbord gradually shrinking in the jars. All that will be left soon is a horrid sticky mess at the bottom of the jar.
Maybe I could find a Bring and Buy sale?

Elizabethd said...

So sad when a good idea wasnt worth the time spent on it. Made jam this year. Didnt eat jam...we rarely do....so there it sits in the cupbord gradually shrinking in the jars. All that will be left soon is a horrid sticky mess at the bottom of the jar.
Maybe I could find a Bring and Buy sale?

elizabethm said...

I love jam making and Ian loves eating it so all is Jack Sprat over here.
I read the Telegraph article and was sure that someone must be taking the p*** but you have as always put your finger on the precise nature of the lunacy. Loved this.

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. Every year I have a compunction to make pots and pots of jam and chutney. Only I don't actually like eating either.

I had so much in my kitchen cupboard this year that it fell off the wall, covering my poor builder in a sticky mess that left him smelling mildly of strawberry for days!

Pondside said...

I'm having another mad moment of laughing at the keyboard, in an empty house - this was priceless, Milla. You always seem to have your finger on the pulse of what's in air (talk about mixed metaphors!)and right now it's all about making do. I've been known to take my own tea to an hotel, but don't know if I'd try that sandwich tip.

Welsh Girl said...

I make jam then ruthlessly give it to city bound friends as a 'present'!!! I only do it because I can't bear the waste of fruit in the summer. I do make a mean chutney though... love the blog by the way.

Edward said...

Loved this:

rather than Go Tramp in a smart hotel ruminating on your failure to run to the hotel’s offerings.

I might add that you should tell F10 that mayonnaise isn't supposed to be used on the head.

Top blog.

Edward said...

All change at Country Lite? What's with the new livery? Is a recession the right time for a rebranding exercise?

Jude said...

I love it, like Pondside, I'm laughing into my keyboard in an empty house. My marmalade,got oranges falling off the trees here, either pours out of the jar or I have to cut it with a sharp knife.

Mean Mom said...

I did think that the thing about the 'toasted' cheese sandwich was a little odd. Wouldn't it be easier just to eat the cheese sandwich, rather than messing about, trying to warm it up? I'm rather partial to a cheese sandwich.

I've never really understood how people get through so many jars of jam. I buy one jar and throw it away 12 months later, still 2 thirds full, when it gets mould on the top of it.

I did once make quince jelly, many, many years ago. What a waste of time and sugar that was. It ended up in the same place as your jam. ;0)

Good to have you blogging again!

Frances said...

Milla, this was great fun to read!

In my time-challenged world, I am always mentally measuring whether is is cheaper (sorry, more frugal) to make something to eat from scratch, or buy some parts of it ready made and doctor it up to meet my now diminished gourmet standards.

I have certainly never made jam, and never had a garden that grew fruits. Buying very good jam is the way to go for dressing up my toast.

Wish it were otherwise, but facts are facts.

I want to see a picture of the curtain project. Anything to do with needle crafts or sewing ... I throw out the calculator, and just do what gives me the pleasure of creating something unique.


muddyboots said...

LOL, l am laughing too! love the sandwich idea! Have just come back from foreign climes and can you believe it, there was such a couple, not sarnies but pork pies, ham, scotch eggs all carefully hidden amongst their undies! MIl is always making jam......... l am not.

Anonymous said...

Making jam always reminds me of my late fil. He constantly pestered me to make jam and marmalade, even though only he would eat it. He continued to make the stuff after his wife had passed on by using raspberries for the jam and tinned marmade for the marmalade. Farmer and I hated it. Wouldn't touch the stuff in fear of it being infested with cigarette ash fallen from his continuous fags.

However, I commend you! Secretly wish I was more domesticated and tackle these cheaper options.

Great blog as always,
CJ xx

KittyB said...

OOoh, a makeoverrrrr. Nice. MAkes me feel better about mine, which in fact has been worrying me. Have I nothing better to think about? No, not really it seems.
That cheese sandwich things is just lunacy. If it's the kind of establishment that offers an iron, then surely there'll be those little packets of biscuits that mysteriously all taste the same. Better to scoff those, surely.
Mayonnaise - please give me a lesson, mine's vile, truly gloopy and bitter.

Lucy Diamond said...

You make your own pasta! Bloody hell, that's impressive domestic goddessery if ever I heard it. Jam, schmam I say (unless it's raspberry Bonne Maman jam of course... mmmm... )

blogthatmama said...

Impressive money-saving tips Milla. I read about the cheese sandwich but forgot until now. I'm actually going to try it out and see what happens.

Single PAP said...

here's the key: a crock pot!
i hate cooking, too, but who doesn't have 5 min to throw the ingredients in and voila a home cooked meal!

ps found you thru black boxes

DJ Kirkby said...

I can give you a recipe for fool proof blackberry jam but I can't make mayonaise so please can I have your recipe for that? xo

Carol and Chris said...

I found your link on Lane's blog and decided to come over and do a nosey...I am so glad I did!! (although I did laugh whilst drinking my tea and nearly ended up with it coming down my nose....it was the cheese sandwich that did it!!)

A friend of mine suggested sun drying my own tomatoes....life is just too short!!

C x

Exmoorjane said...

I make jam. It's about the only cookery related t hing I do so cling onto it desperately, even though I don't eat it (curious, soomething sweet AND bad for you that I don't eat) and mine usually acquires a veneer of mould after not too long.
Love the idea of you making marmite though....

LittleBrownDog said...

Do share your recipe for quick and delicious mayonnaise, Milla - would love to know how to do that. But can the pasta really be better than shop bought? With all the fiddly dismantling and washing up the pasta machine entails? I've taken to hiding H's rashly purchased pasta-making gadget underneath some old tarpaulins in the garage.

Another excellent blog.

CAMILLA said...

Love the idea of making the Marmite Milla, excellent post. Very strange about the cheese sandwich I must admit.

There was a time years ago, when people used to wash their hair in vinegar, so as to have locks gleamy and shiny....... think I'll stick with John Frieda even if it is a tad expensive..!


Anonymous said...